The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates – Book

When I post on Linkedin.com I often see posts from Bill Gates. Lately it seemed that he kept trying to get me (yes me personally ha-ha) to read The Moment of Lift, a recently published book by his wife Melinda Gates. Sometimes I leave billionaires out of my personal pursuits because their lives are so distant from mine that they don’t really feel like real people. It is exclusionary but I always figure they don’t really mind because it doesn’t impact their lives in any negative way and I am not real to them either. But prejudice in any form is probably not good for the soul and billionaires who are also philanthropists, trying to make life better in some way for all us on this tiny planet at the edge of this universe deserve some attention, even if it is just to see whether or not they are just making huge cosmic errors out of misguided arrogance. Now I am being arrogant. Anyway I read Mrs. Gates’ book and it really did give me a moment of lift, in fact more than one moment. When people use their huge fortunes to make a difference for people at the bottom of the economic heap it makes the inequalities of our current economy seem less obscene. And their experiences can teach us about realities in places we can’t afford to go.

I was deep into Chapter 3 of Gates’ book when Alabama decided to make abortion illegal in that state except in rare cases for the health of the mother. Melinda Gates was talking about the effect of women’s lack of control over their reproductive health and what a profound effect that has on the success of an entire family and even the village in which the family lives. If a women gets pregnant many times with little space in between it means she can’t pay proper attention to each child so the children often do not thrive. Infant mortality rates are really high in such cultures and the family is not able to progress, to send the children to school, to grow more crops or work harder to save money and the family does not thrive either. Generation after generation this is a reality that keeps families poor.

Gates was working in Africa and Asia, in countries where these patterns are very noticeable and small efforts can make a big difference. She began with finding ways to provide free vaccines to children. But she found that the mothers were begging to get regular access to contraceptives so they did not wear themselves out having baby after baby. Access to contraceptives is not something you might think would have such profound positive outcomes wherever it is available, but evidence shows us that it does.

So I cheated a bit and made use of Melinda’s new book to try to drum up readers for my recent blog post “Alabama and Melinda Gates” because I wanted to shine a light on what is happening with Roe v Wade.

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/alabama-and-melinda-gates/

Melinda Gates is a very spiritual person. She is a devout Catholic who completed her college degrees at a Catholic college. But she is not a missionary. If she was about the business of spreading Catholicism she might not be so open to listening to women in the African and Asian places she visits, she might care more about fulfilling her own needs than the needs of the people she meets. However she has learned to let socially active people she meets at conferences and in her travels, people who know where to look in Africa and India to enlist the Foundation’s help for programs that already exist. These people become her mentors and they take her with them to meet the village people and see programs that are successfully allowing poor people around the world to have a future that is not simply a repeat of the lives people in that area have lived for generations, lives that can’t plan ahead, lives that can only get through each day and sometimes not even that.

There is no sense in talking about this as a work of literature. It is not intended to be considered in that way. But the book made me aware that not all billionaires are selfish people sailing around on yachts, drinking and dining at swanky restaurants, or building survival dwellings in isolated places. It gave me a lift to learn about the intimate problems of women on other continents (although we certainly have some of these problems on our own continent) and to hear about programs that were trying to lighten women’s loads and free them up to enjoy feeling that they could make personal contributions to their families and their culture, that life did not have to be drudgery and heartache or full of repetitive and difficult tasks that wear down the spirit.

So you might find that you also get to experience some of The Moments of Lift that Melinda Gates offers in her book if you spend a few days immersed in the life of the wife of a billionaire. One more point – just because this book is mostly about the things women face does not mean that men should not read Gates’ book. Perhaps they need to hear about these issues even more that women do. Many women’s lives are still under the control of men, and men’s lives also change for the better when women become partners rather than property.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Goodreads

 

 

Women’s Rights – “Slip-Sliding Away”

Men are still determined to dominate women and some men pay an awful lot of attention to the things women do to stay healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Of course there are women who do this too, but whenever I have been to a Planned Parenthood rally, it has been men who are the most rabid protestors. Religions also try to control what women can do with their bodies in the name of keeping them from sin, I guess. Catholics and Evangelicals would not seem like natural allies, but when it comes to being against ending pregnancies, they are, and they have no interest in the circumstances. Things move so fast that we often get over things that seem shocking and adapt to them quite quickly. We are, also, so distracted by the constant requirements of our President, who must always be the center of attention, that we are letting the states take action on women’s rights that we will really regret; actions which will affect us all.

Now that our government is so often controlled by Republican men, women’s rights are up for grabs in the very places where laws that championed the rights of women were once upheld. It seems to be the fashion that if you don’t like a law, you get creative and find a work-around. Most of this action occurs in the states and perhaps we just feel good that this stuff did not happen in our state. It is really euphemistic to call these activities creative. They actually are ways to break a law. These laws get challenged and end up in court but our courts are being stuffed with Conservatives so sometimes discriminatory laws get upheld. You would think that we would never allow ourselves to become accustomed to legal dirty tricks designed to take away rights, but these are such issue-rich times that we lose our focus.

Specifically, I am talking about what so-called pro-life people have done to sidestep Roe v Wade because they can’t overturn it. As soon as this decision came down from our Supreme Court opposition began. Initially opposition was loud and sometimes violent. Opponents called women who chose to have legal abortions, baby killers, murderers, and tried to block women who needed to end a pregnancy (a personal, private right given to women by law). Emotions ran so high that eventually a doctor who performed abortions was shot and he died. Fear was used as a deterrent to seeking an end to a pregnancy, a sort of cultural terrorism against women already in crisis.  Some women could afford to seek out a clinic that was not under attack but the poorest women could not. We don’t keep statistics on how many women were dissuaded from ending a pregnancy by activists but I suspect this has happened.

Recently the anti-abortion coalitions (formal or informal) have left terrorism behind and they have been thinking outside the box. They still label women as baby killers but have come up with some very effective strategies to close clinics that provide abortions. They have used TRAP laws, mainly in southern states. These laws set standards for women’s health clinics that the clinics cannot afford to meet. The laws decree that clinics affiliate with a nearby hospital when the law’s drafters already know that most hospitals will not allow this. Alternatively, the law requires the clinic to hire high level professionals and buy equipment too costly for their budgets, equipment also unnecessary for the procedures performed there. In West Texas so many clinics had to shut down that there was only one clinic left. I doubt that it is still operating.

As I have already stated, on these matters Catholics and Evangelicals find they are allies, and many of the most obdurate voices are male. These odd allies have been attacking women’s rights on the issue of contraception. Many believe that contraceptives are abortifacients and are therefore also being used to kill babies (perhaps before they are even conceived) (sarcasm). Pregnancy can be planned, but it is often pretty random. Men who don’t like to use protection may be the worst offenders. It only takes one sperm and one egg and a baby could result unless the process of cell division is stopped. Apparently preventing a sperm from fertilizing an egg is considered against God and nature. These folks want to take women back to either abstinence or the highly ineffective rhythm method. (Look it up if you don’t know what it is.) It is total myth that all women in any age practiced abstinence.

The newest pseudoscientific attack on the issue of abortion centers around the determination of “personhood”. When can a fetus feel pain or pleasure. When does a fetus become a “person”. Ohio and Iowa have recently set that mark at 6 weeks and have introduced bills known as “heartbeat” bills which contend that a fetus becomes a person when it has a heartbeat. Scientists say this happens at 6 weeks. Newer attempts are setting “personhood” at conception. Interesting that these people who are often right wingers dismiss science on climate and embrace science that puts women in their “rightful” place, “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen”. The contention here is that as soon as a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall and meiosis begins – voila, personhood happens. Legislators are now asking, “is that tiny “person” entitled to all the rights granted to persons in our documents. Oh, Oh.

This could be bad, really bad. And that is already proving to be true, although on a very small scale so far. There have been several cases where women who claim to have had a miscarriage are being arrested and charged with murder.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/22/abortion-pregnancy-law-prosecute-trump

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/indiana-has-now-charged-two-asian-american-women-feticide-n332761

https://www.thenation.com/article/women-are-being-arrested-and-jailed-self-abortion/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/28/opinion/stillborn-murder-charge.html

All this happens under the radar in the Trump administration, more properly called “The Trump Show”. But we had better not ignore these mental shenanigans practiced by the anti-abortion faction because instead of overturning Roe v Wade these constant attacks on the law could render it moot. Women would once again lose control over their own health, their own bodies, and their own lives. Do we really want to kiss the 60’s goodbye? I still have a newsprint, stapled copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Perhaps one day it will be illegal to own it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – News and Media Committees

Women, Trump, Religion, Money

 

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You may wonder why Evangelicals don’t oppose 45, whose “sins” are coming home to roost and lowering the tone of our national discourse. But you don’t have to travel too far in your thinking to understand that Trump’s misogyny is tailor-made for furthering the policies of fundamentalist Christians. Iowa just passed a law that makes it a crime to have an abortion after 6 weeks. So far no one has overturned this law which violates the intent of Roe v Wade, a law with Supreme Court clout behind it. Perhaps this is true because Trump is packing Federal courts with conservatives as quickly as Congress can confirm them.

Evangelicals and Trump seem to agree that women are the root of much of the evil in American society. When women went to work families fell apart, they claim. Many conservatives feel that the demise of the nuclear family changed the entire tenor of American society and not for the better. They blame the disruptions to the nuclear family on educating women for careers that take their focus away from preserving close families. They also blame this statistical piece of data about fewer nuclear families on women’s liberation and feminism, birth control and legal abortion. But the true roots of this story, at least for these originalists, are in the Garden of Eden. Women led men into the original sin.

Some Evangelicals tend to also be white supremacists (these days) who bemoan the lack of large white families, the dearth of women who are baby factories turning out white infants to keep America white. I don’t know if you have been reading David Brooks in the NYT’s. While I would never identify Brooks as a white supremacist, he does feel that American values and our whole national psyche suffered as families lost strength. He places a lot of the blame on technology but behind his Luddite arguments are the missing elements that supposedly gave America, once upon a time, it’s sense of community. Those missing elements are moms and religion (the role of the church in community life). When women went to work, white women stopped having babies, that is the crux of the matter for Evangelicals, for white supremacists, and perhaps, in a different way, even for David Brooks.

Beyond that there is, of course, a religious belief that abortion is wrong, that God doesn’t like it and that it is probably a mortal sin, even though mortal sin is more a Catholic thing than an evangelical thing. Many believe that if they let women abort babies they are dooming their immortal soul and will never be accepted in Paradise when they leave this life. So they dictate what others can do because they feel they must for both reasons of faith and to insure their passage into heaven.

Lately Evangelicals have decided that life is so sacred that it is wrong to use birth control. Just as some schools are moving back to preaching abstinence; women are being burdened with a message that links abortion and birth control. Evangelicals seem to be saying to women, if you don’t want babies don’t be promiscuous; if you get pregnant, regardless of the circumstances, have the baby. Most of this enormous burden of judgmental religiosity is coming from men, who are responsible for every baby ever born and for the circumstances under which they are conceived (at least most of the time). Allowing this message to have power over women’s lives sends them spiraling backwards to pre-contraception days.

Donald Trump lives deep in the old Madonna-whore complex. Wives are placed on a pedestal and treated like queens (for a while at least) and other women who like their sexuality, or who exploit their sexuality, or who are exploited for their sexuality are Donald’s whores. He may also treat them well for a while, but they are not supposed to have children by him and they are definitely not squired about for public consumption. If they did get pregnant, which could happen because his pleasure comes without protection, I assume an abortion would suddenly gain favor.

And so, not totally by surprise we find this article at salon.com

https://www.salon.com/2018/05/17/is-donald-trump-literally-selling-off-womens-human-rights-for-personal-profit/

“The slow drip-drip of revelations about exactly how deep Donald Trump was in with the Russians comes out on top of a veritable sea of corruption stories flooding out of the White House. But one scandal that’s getting less attention might end up having more dramatic impacts in the long run. It could end up drastically undermining women’s rights to get abortions, to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and even to protect themselves from cancer. New evidence suggests that Trump is, in effect, selling off women’s rights to religious fundamentalists, and personally profiting from doing so.”

It is certainly true that women’s rights have moved far down on the list of media priorities. There are so many attacks on various aspects of American traditions, laws, and practices that we mostly feel like victims of whiplash. Sleaze sells better than outrage. With hush money changing hands and Stormy Daniels piquing interest or moral judgment, and lawyers dominating our news cycles women’s issues, never of great interest to anyone other than women, have fallen by the wayside. (Although, of course, the treatment of Stormy Daniels, et al, is a women’s issue.)

“It’s not unusual, especially in the era of dark money, for special interests to buy off candidates by spending lavishly on campaigns. But with the SBA List’s hotel choice and questions about the Trump-inauguration money’s final destination, there’s strong reason to worry that Trump is simply profiting directly from influence-peddling. What anti-choice activists appear to be getting in exchange is terrifying: An all-out assault on legal abortion and affordable contraception that could roll back decades of progress for women’s autonomy and reproductive health,” says Amanda Marcotte, the author of the article.

Not all women enjoy child-rearing, at least not if it is all they are allowed to do. Women tend to be born with brains as functional as those of men. When women’s brains are solely concerned with healthy baby meals and children’s literature, songs and play activities it can make a grown human woman feel brain dead. I am not saying women don’t love their children. It would be great if all of the women who thrive on child-rearing could concentrate on that pleasure. I am saying that there are women who do not find fulfillment in raising children as their sole profession. In fact there are women who become depressed if they do not have a job to do out in the world away from their family for at least part of the day. There are women who go mad if they cannot create and study and read and exercise their minds just as they exercise their bodies. Much of Freud’s oeuvrewas based on the mental states of women who were suppressed in one way or another. Limiting human endeavors can have profound effects on anyone. There is scientific data about this if only these people valued science.

What will women’s lives be like when 45 is finished with us all? Will we be under the supervision of fundamentalist religious leaders as we see in other parts of the world? We can certainly see the relevance of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and why it has returned as a popular mini-series on TV. The battle was already lost for at least 4 years when Trump was elected. We resist but we worry. Will that be enough? And 45 is being handsomely paid to help take rights away from women? That just adds insult to injury.

See new developments 5/18/2018:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/17/us/politics/trump-funding-abortion-restrictions.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Intersection of Women’s Rights, Iran, and the Movie, Her

It is surprising how much ground has not been
gained by women in America. In the 70’s and 80’s where we got seemed far
enough. We made the point that we should be in control of our own bodies, we
insisted on our right to be educated and to have important careers if we wanted
them, we demanded help with work in the house and with child rearing, and in
some cases we got it.
Perhaps we decided to quit while we were ahead, or
perhaps we got tired of the awful labels, or how the divorce rate rose, or at
the loss of intimacy, or we were exhausted by backlash. For whatever reason/s
women took a break from fighting the good fight – a breather to lick our wounds
or enjoy our successes, and to see where the chips would fall. But when women
were attacked from the right by enemies we already knew about, when the
Right-to-Lifers started to use newer, less violent strategies to make those
Trap Laws and Personhood Laws in states that were already their allies we
didn’t see it coming. When we saw that Roe v Wade could be nickeled and dimed
out of existence; that our enemies were even going after birth control, then we
awakened to the fact that we had quit halfway to our goals.
We had cracked the glass ceiling but we had not
broken it. We had fought lethargically for equal pay for equal work but we did
not reach that goal. We did not fight hard enough for things like universal
free child care or flexible sick time or even family leave days. When we needed
to serve as caretakers for our parents (something we really hadn’t foreseen)
family leave time became even more important. We didn’t argue that men would
also sometimes need flexible sick days and family leave days. Women in America
have ended up way behind women in other developed nations and some American men
have been emboldened to revive that paternalism; that male superiority and
condescension which wants to put women back in their place, barefoot and in the
kitchen.
Can women have freedom for their brains and still
have love for their hearts? Will men ever be able to accept a position as true
partners to their women? (I speak of heterosexual relationships because I am
hesitant to make any assumptions about gender role assignments within same-sex
relationships, but if any of this applies, feel free to tell us all how to phrase
it.)
Perhaps the seeming prevalence of aggressive males
in recent years reflects how difficult it is for some men to manage true gender
equality or perhaps, as I explored in a recent post, it is biologically
unlikely that this will occur without some evolution (something many of these
guys do not even believe in). Are men who can’t accept gender equality un-evolved?
Are men who can accept gender equality whipped, or are they more evolved? It
does seem clear that women cannot make their social and intellectual
fulfillment contingent on the enlightenment or lack of same among men.
Which brings me to an article that appeared Sunday
in the Daily Beast which suggests
that when Iran made women wear the hijab and step down from positions of
authority or from posts as skilled professionals, they were actually hurting
not only Iranian women, but the whole of Iranian culture and that things would
be the worse for it.
But will it prove true that equality between
genders will wreak havoc on male-female relationships which will, in future,
last only as long as expedient or only exist among a small group of men and
women who negotiate their way past biology? Or will we finally have
relationships, as in the movie Her,
with only robots or artificial intelligences, and even that will eventually
prove impossible.
We have not yet found our way through this
male/female wilderness and I have to wonder if it will ever be possible for any
but a biologically predetermined few. And yet I believe it is important to give
it our energy and throw our laws and even some funding at it because it is a
very worthy goal.

By Nancy Brisson